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A method for detecting ribosome inactivating protein (RIP) activity in a sample is provided that involves contacting a sample that contains an RIP with an inventive substrate that is depurinated to form product. The product is hybridized to a template and cleaved by an apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease such that releasing the blocked 3′ end only in a sample that contains RIP activity. The 5′ end of the product serves as a primer for extension by a polymerase reaction. The newly synthesized strand complementary to the template is detected by RT-PCR processes. A kit is provided suitable for field or laboratory use.